Why Most Promoted People Fail


Jack Welch was visibly ticked off. “Too few of the people we promote turn out to not be A players,” he lamented, “and we have the best people management and development programs in the world.” Fast forward 15 years… I have just met with the #1 human resource executives at just the largest 100 companies in the world. They said that only 25% of the people they promote turn out to be high performers, that 75% of the people they promote turn out to be disappointments, or worse!

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Why do so many companies promote people over their head? The heads of HR from Global 100 companies agree that it is a matter of people earning promotions. People who do a super job are given promotions because they “deserve the chance.” Years ago a book called The Peter Principle documented how companies do this – promote people until they are incompetent in a job, and then leave them in that job! We all know of a top sales rep who was promoted to sales manager and ended up being a horrible manager!

So, what is a good way to promote people? The Topgrading method of promoting people has dozens of named case studies showing 90%success. The steps are “common sense:”

1. Create a job scorecard stating what the accountabilities and competencies are in the new job. It will dramatize how the (sales management) job is vastly different from the present (sales rep) job.

2. Conduct the chronological Topgrading Interview, looking for evidence that the new competencies are met. You’d hope to see that this sales rep volunteered to recruit and train sales reps and show real leadership in special projects.

3. Conduct internal “reference checks” with bosses, peers, and lower level people. You want to hear a vote of confidence in the candidate.

Add to these steps trying the person out, as Acting Sales Manager can give the rep a chance in thejob, and if there is a failure, staying on as a rep is a lot better than firing the failed manager.

What do you think? Why do so many people promoted fail? And what have you done to successfully promote people?

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